In each mystery, Ímagine Purple encounters a scene comprised of pure nonsense such as the excerpt below. As twisted and serious as a mystery can become, before things get clear, they often get very muddy.
BACKGROUND: Ima has just escaped from Estonia and is ready for some rest from international intrigue. However, she instead lands in a world of London deceptive butlers, secret passages, and poisonous plants. For relief, she and her visiting buddy Cash Underground decide to take a tour of 1969 London. While they remain mostly listeners to the following comic exchanges, the tour guide Terence tries in vain to field impossible questions from rather uninformed tourists. This classic nonsense scene is typical of what a reader can expect from The Picaresque of Ímagine Purple
EXCERPT FROM IMASODE VIII: Aunt Lottie’s London
“Well, we’ve seen where the queen lives, not that I expected an invitation to tea this afternoon,” said a lady who acted in charge. “So, why not show us #10 Downing Street where the prime minister lives. Maybe he’ll at least give us a wave.”
“Strangely, almost all foreigners know two London addresses: #10 Downing Street and 221-B Baker Street,” said Terence.
“Baker Street is where Sherlock Holmes lives, right?” said a man up front.
“Well, that’s where he supposedly lived while solving his mysteries in the late 1800s; but of course, those stories are only fiction,” said the guide.
The driver continued a short distance before turning onto Victoria Street. When the guide pointed out the next sight, a great deal of nonsense broke out among the sightseers. The conversation turned into a free for all…a verbal exchange fit for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The poor guide struggled to keep on topic:
“Next, ladies and gentlemen, we will pass Westminster Cathedral.”
“Oh, I will definitely go back to West-mi-ni-ster Abbey,” said Miss Know-It-All.
“I’m sure you mean WestMINSTER Abbey? There is no i before the s,” the guide corrected her politely.
“I thought the rule is i before e except after c,” said Miss Know-It-All.
“But there is no ‘c” in Westminster Abbey, and no minister in its name, and no minister in its pulpit.” The guide tried to humor the lady tourist.
“No minister? What kind of church is that?” she retorted.
“A minister has nothing to do with this. I’m only trying to help you pronounce the name correctly. It’s WestMINSTER and rhymes with SPINSTER.”
“So, there’s no minister here because it’s full of spinsters?” asked another woman nearby. “Oh, now I understand. It’s full of nuns, and nuns are always spinsters; so naturally, no ministers would be there!”
“You mean to tell me that Westminster Abbey is a really a nunnery?” asked Miss Know-It-All.
“No, it is an abbey, not a nunnery,” said the poor tour guide looking baffled as to when exactly he lost complete control of his group.
“Didn’t Shakespeare say something like, ‘Get thee to a nunnery’? Well, Mr. Tour Guide. Here we are at one. Maybe this is the one Shakespeare meant,” said Miss Know-It-All. “So, please ask the driver to stop so I can take a picture?”
Despite the great exchange of ignorance, the tour guide forged ahead. “Well Madam, I would, except this is neither Westminster Abbey nor the nunnery Shakespeare mentioned. That one was in Denmark, but the Bard gave it no specific name.”
“How disappointing. I so wanted to see Westminster Abbey,” she said sadly.
Now quite exasperated, Terrence sighed. “Madam, we will pass Westminster Abbey soon. But right now in front of us, we have Westminster Cathedral.”
“You mean the one the Beatles sang about?” said a passenger in the rear.
“No, that was Westchester Cathedral!” said a man midway the bus.
“No dear, Dick Van Dyke lives in Westchester County on his TV show.”
“The song is Winchester Cathedral, like the famous Winchester rifle. “You need to clean out your ears,” replied the wife to her husband.
“Not if I’d have to hear you more than I do,” said the man in his own defense.
The tourist crowd sniggered at this domestic spat. Most likely they recognized that this husband and wife team surely neared the end of a month-long vacation and needed a week-long nap in separate rooms.
“Looky here. I’m visiting England so I don’t care about Westchester County or Winchester Rifle in America. What I want to know about is Westminster Cathedral.” Cash declared to the guide.
“Westminster Cathedral is the mother ship for English Catholics.”
“Well, then whose mother ship is Westminster Abbey?” wondered Cash, trying to bring the subject full circle.
“No one’s really! It belongs to the royal family who graciously allows the public in for short visits. It is more of a hallowed place than an active church. Private gatherings occur there. Special honors are bestowed there, and dignitaries get buried under the floors. By all means, tour it, if you have time.”
“So, this is where the Royal Weddings are held?” asked an eager tourist.
“Oh, I saw that old movie with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I loved when he danced on the ceiling,” said a mouse of a lady.
“Ginger Rogers was not in Royal Wedding,” Miss Know-It-All said, slamming the door on the mouse’s nose. “It was someone else. I can’t remember who, but it definitely was not Ginger Rogers.”
The guide continued, “The Royal Wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip took place in 1948 at St. Paul’s cathedral, the main church for the English Anglicans.”
“Well, this is all very ta-ta and highfalutin in my book,” someone up front said.
The tour guide had no idea how to field that comment, so he let it drop. He had had tough crowds before, but today’s took the cake. Soon, the bus paused at Westminster Abbey to let passengers take pictures and then pulled over to the Parliament building.
“Here we have the seat of government for Great Britain,” Terrance said.
“Is it true you are born to serve in Parliament just like the royals are born to rule in Buckingham Palace?” asked someone who had so far remained quiet.
“Partially…perhaps I can explain. Our House of Commons is the lower house of government, elected by our citizens. It proposes legislation, which only becomes law if the House of Lords gives its stamp of approval. To serve in this upper house you must be titled either through noble birth or deigned so by the Queen.”
“I think some American senators think they were born to rule forever. They forget we overthrew King George to get rid of such thinking,” said a lady rider midway the upper deck.
“Now, now,” said Cash, patting the lady’s arm. “We’re guests here and mustn’t insult our host.”
“At the end of the Parliament Building is Big Ben. He is aligned perfectly with Greenwich Mean Time, the standard by which the world sets it watch. As we travel over Westminster Bridge, I want you to look back quickly and catch my favorite view of Parliament. The complex looks much more expansive, even dramatic from the riverside.
“I highly recommend you take Gray Line’s night boat tour with dinner and dancing under lots of twinkling lights. Everything looks more majestic at night. Now, we are crossing the Thames, the longest river in England. I suspect it is the only English river any foreigner can name other than the Avon that runs through Stratford where William Shakespeare was reputedly born.”
“This side of the river is called Waterloo, but we’ll soon double back across the river on—”
“London Bridge?” asked one of the very verbal tourists.
“No, beyond that. To clarify history, there has always been a crossing called London Bridge. However, I can assure you, it is not ‘falling down.’ Everyone expects to see the story book version, but actually that is known as the Tower Bridge because it is so close to the Tower of London.”
The bus meandered close to the river, and then went across the picturesque medieval Tower Bridge every kid has dreamed about. Questions and comments rippled through the tourists:
“Did you ever hear of the Tower Bridge?”
“I think the guide has it all wrong.”
“The world knows this is London Bridge…falling down…falling down.”
The morning dragged on. When the driver paused at the Tower of London, Terrence recommended it worthy of a thorough visit. “Have no fear of being imprisoned or executed…unless you’re a political adviser or wife of Henry VIII.”
The busload chuckled. Cash felt a low chortle bubbling up in him. “So, what’s next? We’ve been to Waterloo. Aren’t we going to see Lord Nelson celebrate that victory?”
“Well, in a way. We’re headed to Trafalgar Square where Nelson died,” said the guide.
“Wasn’t it at Waterloo where Lord Nelson defeated Napoleon?” asked Cash.
“Oh, no…well yes…well sort of,” replied the guide. “Napoleon got defeated on land at a place called Waterloo in Belgian, not here in London and not directly by Lord Nelson. However, our glorious naval strategist Nelson did defeat Napoleon and his navies several other times…in Egypt and Copenhagen. The English navy simply had superior tactics and better-trained troops than anyone else on the sea.”
Traffic had turned onto Trafalgar Square. Like a five-points intersection, many streets joined. In the center, a statue of Lord Nelson ruled over a few ponds with fountains. Impressive government-style buildings surrounded the area.
A logjam of traffic forced the tour bus to pause unwillingly. The passengers craned their necks to take in this famous historical spot. Cash decided it deserved a second look later. When the bus headed for Piccadilly Circus, a few children on board got excited and asked, “Can we see the clowns from the bus?”
The tour guide chuckled. “London can be confusing with names for places which seem to make no sense. For instance, there is no hay in Haymarket, no flowered paths in Covent Garden, no lawyers at Royal Court, and absolutely no clowns in Piccadilly Circus.”
Patient parents tried to explain the name meant a circle where many streets converged like a roundabout. Around the circus lay a cornucopia of shops and bright signs, in fact the wildest, craziest, and busiest signs imaginable.
“This end of Piccadilly deserves a night tour. All the neon lights and mod clothes seen here are absolutely dizzying. We are also now in the heart of the West End Theatre District so you might want to take in a play or two. Theatre doesn’t get any better than in London. William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and Noel Coward all operated here at one time.
“There’s something for every taste. Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is the longest running play here and remains a bit of fun if you like mystery. Also, may I recommend the current offering at Piccadilly Theatre behind the Circus? Starting this weekend, there is an extended engagement of Man of La Mancha with Richard Kiley playing Don Quixote, the role he created on New York’s Broadway.”
Since Lionel had not told Ima the bad news of his losing the lead part, she looked at Cash and said, “Something’s wrong. Kiley left, and Lionel was to take over.”
“Maybe the tour guide has old information. Why not we get off here, walk to the theatre, and see if we can take your father to lunch,” suggested Cash.
Today, I sent the manuscript for IMASODE VIII: Aunt Lottie’s London to the publisher. Still, I thought readers might like a preview. The book will be out in Spring 2016, so look for it then.